November 6, 2021 Subject:
The title would suggest a standard company biography aimed at the general public - apparently confirmed by a rather patronising section about ‘The Joneses’, praising all the little folk in remote places, where the cinema is “the brightest spot in town”.
Yet much of it reads like a company report, with solemn lists of capitalisations and subsidiaries, as though it was trying to sell shares. Other parts are celebrating the growth of the cinema in a way that can only be called intoxicated - also encouraging you to see the film industry and Famous Players-Lasky (the future Paramount) as one and the same thing. So the concept of the book lacks a certain integrity, to put it mildly.
We should remember that this was 1919, when the public was attuned to overblown patriotic language left over from the war. Thus the cinema is described as “the mightiest force for good now on earth” and the Chairman, Adolph Zukor, as the prophet who could see “in this strange mechanical toy the beginnings of something that could overwhelm the world, re-build cities and re-make humanity…” (Yes, well.)
There is no doubt that the period 1912-1919 was indeed an exciting time to be a leader of the film business, with newly-discovered Hollywood offering an unlimited vista of possibilities. Still it’s sad, with hindsight, to read about the rose-coloured prospects for Roscoe Arbuckle, Tom Ince, William Taylor…